By Loretta Sorensen
Repurposed rubber roofing works well
For nearly eight years, rubber material that once covered a flat commercial building roof has served as a durable, effective silage pit cover for Alfred Brandt, a sixth-generation Missouri dairy farmer.
Brandt obtained the rubber directly from a roofing company. He places it on top of the black plastic traditionally used on silage pits.
"The rubber came to us in pieces ranging from 10'×20' to as large as 30'×50'. Any larger than that, and the rubber is pretty hard to handle," Brandt says.
"One of my silage pits is 14'×40' and the other is 30'×80'. I use a lot fewer tires now, just putting a few on where seams overlap. The 1⁄8" rubber creates a tight oxygen barrier and helps keep animals like possums and raccoons out of the pile."
Brandt also significantly reduced spoilage with the rubber covering, but adds that it’s not as effective to use just the rubber without the plastic. "My neighbor tried that the first year," he says. "It doesn’t create a tight enough oxygen barrier."
Rubber roofing is available from companies such as Repurposed Materials, based in Denver, Colo. Industry standard thickness can range from 45 mil to 60 mil.
"Individual sheet sizes vary," says the company’s founder, Damon Carson. "Some sheets have patches missing where HVAC openings occurred, etc. These can be resealed with EternaBond, a tape available at roofing supply stores.
"Rubber material works effectively under any temperature," Brandt adds. "We sell rubber roofing by the pallet load. Other repurposed products that might be useful to dairy producers are conveyor belting and old advertising billboard vinyls, which work well as hay tarps and pond liners."
Brandt highly recommends rubber roofing covers on silage pits. "Have several people help move it," he says. "It’s heavy. You can’t do it alone."